Colin Kaepernick will make his season debut for the 49ers in Buffalo this Sunday, thus marking his first NFL action since November 2015.
What can we expect from the 28-year-old?
“Look, this was a financial decision,” CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There is no coincidence that he’s absolutely starting when they have crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is on a renegotiated contract, a process that’s been going on for months. What can we expect? I think the first thing we can expect is that people will remember Torrey Smith is actually on this football team and they paid him a significant amount of money to come to that team as a free agent less than two years ago. I think the yards-per-attempt will be above 5.1 or wherever Blaine Gabbert was, (which was) last in the league. There will be a big-arm guy making trying to make some big-arm plays, and sometimes he will use his feet to buy more time for guys to just waggle free and break from coverage. There will be a little bit of that streetball element. They have to have some infusion of just a dynamic element there. Some of these scrambles, where Gabbert was getting seven or right yards, maybe this guy gets 15. There has to be some semblance of a downfield attack.”
Indeed, especially since the 49ers have lost four straight and averaged just 18.7 points over their last three games.
“He’s not going to be pulling any rabbits out of his hat,” La Canfora said of Kaepernick. “It’s still a bad football team, and I’m not even so sure about the scheme anymore at this level. It looks like the JV against the varsity, but I don’t think there’s anywhere to go but up.”
Elsewhere in the NFC, Jordan Reed could miss this Sunday’s game against the Eagles, as he suffered the fifth concussion of his career this past week. That’s a high number for a 26-year-old.
“It obviously has to be a concern,” La Canfora said. “This was something that, I don’t want to say complicated the contract situation because that makes light of a health issue, but certainly was a factor in how they structured or put together the contract extension that he received in the offseason. These are brain injuries. This is not the first time he’s suffered this. If or when he gets cleared, nobody knows. There is a process that has to be adhered to and we’ll see when he passes those baselines and if or when he gets cleared by an independent neurologist. Just as we’ve talked about Cam and Carson Palmer in recent weeks, this is obviously a little different given the number of known concussions he’s suffered, but the process is the same.”
At some point, a player’s concussion history could significantly alter whether that player remains in the league.
“Everyone has to make their own determinations,” La Canfora said. “Wes Welker got another shot, right? Nobody thought that was coming. Everyone has sort of their own conscience, both from a medical standpoint and from a football standpoint and a strategic-roster standpoint. It’s a free-market economy. If he is able to be cleared, if your doctors can rightfully clear him and you have a need at a certain position, I don’t think this is a situation where you could ever say a guy can’t play (after a certain number of concussions). People’s brains heal differently. They’ve worked all their lives for this, and this how they feed their families. It’s an individual decision, it’s a medical decision and it’s a business decision. I don’t know that there’s cut and dry numbers.”